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Alibrandi Taking Another Shot at Reshaping Whittaker

August 15, 1986|NANCY RIVERA BROOKS | Times Staff Writer

"I really don't see any down side in this," Hanisee said. "They basically are getting rid of businesses that have caused them problems over the years and kept the ones that have been good to them."

Larry Selwitz, an analyst with Bateman Eichler, Hill Richards, called the overhaul "a move toward a company that's understandable and gets a decent return on shareholders' equity and asset base."

He added: "I think it's something that had to be done, but it was a long time coming."

Others are less appreciative of the restructuring.

"What it boils down to in my opinion is Joe has made a lot of acquisitions, none of which were synergistic," said Steve Reid, an analyst with the Wedbush, Noble, Cooke securities firm in Los Angeles.

"Joe Alibrandi had a string of successes in the '70s and now he's had a string of failures," Reid said. In addition to losing the Saudi contract, Whittaker:

- Tried to take over Brunswick Corp. in 1982 but failed when the company adopted a "scorched earth" strategy of selling the assets that Whittaker wanted most.

- Lost more than $26 million when it sold its 8.3% holding in Smith International, an oil services firm that is operating under bankruptcy court protection.

- Failed to unload a Fort Worth pipe firm that services the oil industry even though the oil business was heading for hard times.

Whittaker posted a $4.5-million loss in the second quarter primarily because of a $12-million writeoff associated with an oil and gas venture. For the fiscal year ended last October, Whittaker reported a $19.9-million profit on sales of $1.13 billion, a sharp decline from previous years, primarily because of the loss of the Saudi contracts.

Harry S. Derbyshire, former executive vice president and chief executive of Whittaker, said Alibrandi has done a "terrible" job with the company. Derbyshire retired last year after a disagreement with Alibrandi over company strategy. He is now a consultant.

"The company made a tremendous amount of money in Saudi Arabia and there's nothing to show for it. All his strategies have gone wrong," said Derbyshire, who describes Alibrandi as "extremely pleasant, courteous, considerate, motivational."

Although Derbyshire didn't want to comment on the planned restructuring, he added: "I don't believe they have a strategy now. That's why I left."

Alibrandi said the changing focus of the company comes from seizing opportunities and then abandoning them when market conditions change. He added: "We've made some investments along the way that didn't turn out the way we wanted, and we've made some investments that turned out fantastic.

"Nobody bats a thousand."

THE SHIFT AT WHITTAKER Business mix in 1976 . . . Based on sales that year of $713.77 million. 10% Life Sciences 8% Chemicals 58% Other businesses 24% Technology . . . and after proposed divestitures Based on sales of $189.7 million for six months ended April 30, 1986 37% Chemicals 63% Technology

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